Woman fired from job exercising racehorses because of mask exemption

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Dana Cheetham loves horses. And she loved her job of exercising horses at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack, diligently starting her shift each day at 5 a.m.

But Dana is no longer gainfully employed at Woodbine. Why? Well, chalk another victim up to COVID-19 — or rather, chalk another victim up to the ridiculous regulations inherent to the various coronavirus lockdown protocols.

You see, Dana has a medical exemption that excludes her from wearing a face mask. You know, those de rigueur facial diapers the medical authorities want us to wear everywhere, everyday. (Please ignore the fact that many moons ago, these same medical authorities spoke out AGAINST wearing masks…)

Initially, Dana’s exemption was respected. She notified the lead trainer and assistant trainer, both of whom were fine with her exercising horses mask-free. And why not? Given that Dana’s job description is all about exercising horses in the great outdoors, where is the harm in going maskless vis-a-vis social distancing?

But while her colleagues had no problems with Dana going maskless, the security guards at the track had a differing viewpoint. Dana says they informed her that because Woodbine is private property, Woodbine would not be respecting any mask exemptions.

Dana says security kept harassing her to mask up, and they threatened the assistant trainer that he would be fined if she didn’t comply with the mask mandate.

Dana says she was terminated from her position earlier this month. What’s more, she alleges that Woodbine is now pressuring employees to get vaccinated, too.

We reached out to Woodbine Entertainment for their side of the story. Although they declined an on-camera interview, a spokesman issued the following statement:

April 2020, Woodbine Entertainment implemented a mandatory mask policy for anyone working on our property as part of our COVID-19 Prevention Protocols and efforts to keep people as safe as possible.

This policy does provide for exemptions for medical reasons.

To our knowledge, Ms. Cheetham has not provided her employer with any details regarding her claim for a medical exemption to our face mask policy. We would be happy to review her situation upon her employer’s request.

We have previously provided medical exemptions to other individuals on a case-by-case basis.

For her part, Dana says she offered to show Woodbine a letter from her doctor, even though the bylaw does not require such a step. But she says Woodbine never took her up on her offer.

Bottom line: Dana says she recently filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, claiming that Woodbine is not in compliance with the mask bylaw and that the company unfairly terminated her.

Stay tuned: this human rights horse race is far from over...

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